The Colts thought they were locked into getting Josh McDaniels as their next head coach. But after the Patriots offensive coordinator decided not to become the Colts’ new coach, there’s no reason for Indianapolis to sweat or fret.
The Colts ended up hiring the winning offensive coordinator of the Super Bowl in the Eagles’ Frank Reich, not the loser in McDaniels.
With every other head-coaching vacancy in the NFL already filled, Indianapolis had the luxury of tapping into a Philadelphia staff that won it all without restrictions or waiting. Indy took advantage and plucked from the suddenly hot Doug Pederson tree while it had the chance.
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Going back to the first hire of the offseason, the Bears wasted no time in landing Matt Nagy, who succeeded Pederson as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator. The Colts’ pursuit of McDaniels was predicated on the fact that they wanted an offensive-minded coach to reboot the career of a hopefully healthy Andrew Luck. Reich, as Pederson’s latest right-hand man, is the right man for the task.
The biggest difference between McDaniels and Reich is experience. McDaniels turns 42 in April, but he’s had a previous head-coaching stint in Denver plus multiple long stretches on New England’s staff. Reich turned 56 in December, but he entered coaching late, only 10 years ago.
After being one of the best-ever backup QBs for the Bills behind Jim Kelly, Reich has built his second NFL career in his own right. In 2008, his first shot came with the Colts’ offensive staff under the legendary Tom Moore. That crosses over into another familiar coaching name with the Colts — Bruce Arians.
Arians, as interim coach during Luck’s rookie season in 2012, was NFL coach of the year filling in for Chuck Pagano. Arians got his head-coaching shot later than most, and unexpectedly. After few winning seasons with Indianapolis and Arizona, his short time in that capacity will go down as a success. Reich’s age wasn’t a factor, because as Arians did, he connects well to young players.
Reich did a terrific job working with Pederson to get the best out of two quarterbacks this past season, Carson Wentz and Nick Foles. There’s a bit of Luck in both of those guys, Wentz with the fearless physicality and Foles with the relentless gunslinging. Before he was hired by the Eagles in 2016, Reich put in some strong work with another tough, veteran QB in the Chargers’ Philip Rivers.
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Reich during Super Bowl 52 week was ready to take over an entire team. The Eagles’ offensive players loved him. For a team that won the Super Bowl with a lot of key backups, Reich, with a playing background similar to that of Pederson, provided both motivation and inspiration.
Reich’s path in NFL coaching has featured a lot of faith and determination, two things the Colts need with Luck.
The Colts went on with their scheduled press conference last week, even without it being held to introduce McDaniels. General manager Chris Ballard held firm that a desired replacement for Pagano is still out there.
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“We will get the right leader for the Indianapolis Colts,” Ballard said. “I am very confident in this. … Just because you’re the first choice doesn’t mean your their best choice.”
The choice was clear for the Colts.
Ballard made the right, better move by making the call to hire Reich.